Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to: 

  • connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
  • share ideas about learning and human development;
  • spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy. 

Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing. 

Michael Ulku-SteinerHead of School 

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Pomp and circumstance

I generally avoid pitching commercial entities on this blog. This graduation video from Google, however, is worth the 90 seconds it will take you to watch.

Congratulations to our graduates, whether the Seniors (who walked across the stage at Memorial Hall last Friday), our Kindergartners (who grabbed their diplomas this morning), or our 4th and 8th Graders (who have their moments in the sun next week).

Photos credits: Diane Lanevi and Melody Butts. Click on the links above to see the full graduation flickr galleries.

Posted by in Preschool, Upper School, Other on Friday May 30, 2014
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Phenomenal woman

Amidst their full calendars of well-planned lessons, DA teachers often make time to make current events relevant to their charges. This morning US English Teacher Naa Adom sent the following to her students and colleagues - a well-timed reminder of "The Power of One."

Dear All,
As you may have heard, Dr. Maya Angelou died yesterday at the age of 87. Many of you may know her as a poet, but she was a renaissance woman.
Do you love literature?
Well, then you should be humbled by her prolific output as a writer. She wrote seven volumes of memoir, three books of essays, and many books of poetry. She was the first poet since Robert Frost to deliver an inaugural poem.
Are you a scholar?
She was the recipient of over 30 honorary degrees and at one point, an administrator at the …
Posted by in Upper School, Other on Thursday May 29, 2014
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Tag: Naa Adom
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Reading, teaching, and changing lives

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Annual Appreciation Dinner for the Augustine Literacy Project, with whom we partner to offer one of Durham Academy's best courses.

The picture above, captured clumsily on my phone, does no justice to the leadership ability of Debbie McCarthy, who followed a successful DA music teaching career with a spectacularly successful run as a non-profit leader and serial life-changer.

Click here to see my earlier post on the Augustine class, including some testamonials from our students.

Earlier this month Debbie shared the pre- and post-test results from the 2nd Graders at Hope Valley Elementary School tutored by DA Seniors. Among the reading skills assessed: Auditory Deletion Analysis, Yopp-Singer (phonemic segmentation), IOTA (word attack), Morrison-…

Posted by in Upper School, Other on Wednesday May 28, 2014
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One last lesson for our Seniors

Twice in a week, Durham Academy Commencement addresses have garnered attention from the national press.

First, NPR recognized Doug Marlette's 2005 speech (delivered in the Upper School gym to Doug's son Jackson and his classmates) as one of the 300 best Graduation Speeches Ever. Click here to see the version NPR referenced, or here to see the full speech, with a little more local color.

Next, Time.com published Will Willimon's speech from Friday's Commencement ceremony. Click here to see that one: "an encomium to the glory of a mind adrift."

Posted by in Upper School on Tuesday May 27, 2014
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Tag: Graduation
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You have set the bar high

This morning was beautiful - cool, clear, sunny, breezy . . . and Memorial Day.

The morning grew even more beautiful when I read the following, an open letter to Sheppy Vann, retiring next month after 30 years of teaching and leading in our Preschool. It came from Dennis Cullen (Upper School Math Teacher, Math Department Chair, Varsity Boys and Girls Track and Cross Country Coach, and among the most astute appreciators around).

Enjoy the letter - and the far-reaching legacy of teachers who never stop learning.


Dear Sheppy,

On a late summer morning in 1990, I was in the teachers’ lounge at the 751 campus, putting something in the mailboxes of all the Middle School math teachers. Kevin, aged five, was with me. You walked in, carrying a few books. Kevin would be starting …

Posted by in Preschool, Upper School on Monday May 26, 2014
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Raising stars

Among the many beautiful elements of Friday's Commencement ceremony: listening to the voices of Seniors Maritzelena Chirinos, Lowell Oakley and Emily Cotten intertwining one (say it ain't so!) last time on the stage. Here's to the fantastic fine arts teachers who lifted these students toward their best performing selves!

Durham audiences have at least one more opportunity to hear Emily and Lowell singing together. They have been selected as finalist candidates for the Best Actor/Actress categories of the Triangle Rising Star Awards program.

Next Monday, June 2, at 7:30 p.m., the 20 finalists will perform in a showcase event at the DPAC. Click here to learn more about the competition, how to buy tickets, and which DA production is a finalist for the Best Musical category.
Posted by in Upper School on Sunday May 25, 2014
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Throw me to the wolves and I will come back leading the pack

How can a man possibly grow more moral, happier, more productive (and better looking!) as his deadly disease advances?

Chris Rosati keeps telling us how.

I hope our students are listening.

Posted by in Alumni on Wednesday May 21, 2014
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Who brought us to this Hill?

Yesterday at the Hill Center, the Board of Trustees held a reception to honor 30 years of devoted service by Shary Maskel. On Thursday afternoon from 3:15 - 4:15, the broader Hill and DA communities will get a similar opportunity to wish Shary well at a casual frozen yogurt party. All are welcome. 

It is not hyperbole to say that Shary Maskel built the Hill Center we know and love today. Of course she's been helped by scores of dedicated and loving teachers, hundreds of happy and grateful parents, and dozens of generous donors and trustees. But Shary has been the thread pulling all those people together for three decades. 

At the core of her success is a passionate belief in the potential of every child - especially those for whom school does not come easily. First as a consultant …

Posted by Melody Butts in Other on Tuesday May 20, 2014
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Joga bonito, longa viagem

Many of us are counting the days (not many!) until the World Cup 2014 launches in Brazil. Two DA grads are doing more than counting the days. 

Brazildrive.com is the blog of brothers Grant '08 and David Fowler '10, driving from Durham to Brazil to enjoy their favorite sport on the world's biggest stage. Pictured here are the Fowlers on a side-trip from the World Cup in 2010. 

A bit about their current adventure, from Grant: 

My family has been walking off the beaten path for as long as I can remember. We have never been eccentric or weird by any stretches of the imagination – in fact, we’re a pretty normal family. All things considered, our life in Durham, NC is not exceptionally out of the ordinary. Our travel habits on the other hand, are a …

Posted by Melody Butts in Alumni on Monday May 19, 2014
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Summer is coming . . . and so is a helpful alumnus

As a DA graduate and recent returner to Durham, Jeff Crumbliss '92 has been eager to get to know the "new" Durham Academy. I enjoyed meeting him a couple of months ago and am glad to see him sharing his expertise with our parents.

Jeff will be the featured speaker at a Lower School Parent Coffee tomorrow morning at 8:15. His topic: "How to Create Structure and Predictability for Your Child in the Summer Months." 

Jeff speaks from deep experience as a clinical social worker and current experience as a parent. He holds a faculty appointment in the Duke University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, where he provides live supervision for child psychiatry post-doctoral fellows, psychiatry residents, and psychology interns in the Family Studies Program. He …

Posted by Melody Butts in Lower School, Alumni on Sunday May 18, 2014
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